Filed under Musical Instruments

Tuba, Brass Musical Instrument

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The Tuba is a large, brass instrument with an equally big cupped mouth piece. This instrument can also be referred to as a large valved bugle, a highly flexible instrument capable of producing strong tones.

How to play the Tuba? In order to produce music on the tuba, a player must buzz his lips into the mouthpiece, thus producing sound through vibrations.

Look & Feel The Tuba comes in several different sizes ranging from 18 feet to 12 feet long and pitches such as C, F, E-Flat and B-Flat.

The 3 main components of this brass instrument includes – the mouthpiece pointing towards the player, a flared large bell facing upwards and a conical bore. What is fascinating about the Tuba is the manner in which the bore forms an elliptical shape through its coils.

History – Looking Back As compared to most other brass instruments, the Tuba is relatively a new entrant in the world of music in general and in the world of symphony orchestra in particular. It is believed that the Tuba replaced the Ophicleide and took over the bass parts in an orchestral setting.

It is believed that the first Tuba was created in the year 1835 and by the mid 1840’s, several variations came into existence. In fact, it is only during the early 19th century that the Tuba gained mainstream recognition.

Holding the Tuba Larger tubas are played by resting them on the player’s lap. In some cases, the instrument is held in a comfortable position with the help of attached straps. Smaller tubas are easily held in the arm.

Different Types of Tuba The most commonly recognised types of Tuba include –

  • Euphonium
  • Sousaphone
  • Wagner Tuba, etc.

Famous Tuba Players & Artists include

  • Tom Abbs
  • James Akins
  • Kenneth Amis
  • Alan Baer
  • Roger Bobo, etc.

Tuba Performance

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Accordion, Keyboard Musical Instrument

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The Accordion is a bellows-driven Keyboard Instrument, considered to be closely related to the Concertina. Sometimes the Accordion and the Concertina were also called “Squeezebox”. An Accordion player is called an Accordionist and is often referred to as a one-man music band.

What does an Accordion Look Like? The Accordion is a large, box-shaped free-reed, bellows driven musical instrument. It comes in different sizes with varying overall weight.

Mechanism of the Accordion In order to play the accordion, a player must use both his left and right hand. Since both the hands play a vital role in playing the Accordion, most accordions have attached shoulder straps so that the player can easily play the instrument.

While the left hand is used to operate the bellows (expand and compress) and play the pre-set chord buttons on the left-hand panel, the right hand plays the melody on the keyboard on the right-hand panel. As the keys are pressed, the valves open and air enters through the steel / brass reeds, causing them to vibrate and produce sound.

Different Types of Accordion

Some of the different types of accordion include

  •     Chromatic
  •     Diatonic
  •     Unisonoric
  •     Bisonoric, etc.

Practical Application & Popularity Today The Accordion is most commonly used as a part of Classical Music, both orchestra and solo and is most popular in Europe (France, Belgium), North and South America.

Looking Back It is believed that the Accordion was invented way back in 1821 and further improved in 1829.

Famous Accordion Players

  •     Mat Mathews
  •     John Umina
  •     Jerry Cigler
  •     Frank Marocco
  •     Art Van Damme

Accordion Performance

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Keyboard Instrument – Harmonium (Organ Family)

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The Harmonium is a Keyboard Instrument, part of the Organ family. The roots of the Harmonium can be traced back to its French version which came to India sometime in the mid-19th century. Over the years, the Harmonium gained tremendous popularity, especially in rural India. Several new additions were made to the basic structure resulting in the Harmonium instrument we know today. Highly portable, the Harmonium can be carried easily and is used in almost all genres of Indian music, except for South Indian Classical Music.

Mechanism of the Harmonium Sometimes regarded as an extension of the piano which was not affordable by most, the Harmonium evolved over a period of time as it is known today. The Harmonium is made up of a wooden frame which contains a keyboard, brass reeds which vibrate the moment air is blown over them, bellows to pump air, drone stops and a mechanism which helps to change the scales. Earlier versions were often played while using the foot, knees or hands to pump the bellows.

Today, in order to play the Harmonium, the player uses one hand to pump the bellows and the other to play the notes. As the bellows are pumped, air is blown over the reeds which begin to vibrate and create sound, corresponding to the keys which are pressed.

Family of Free-Reed Instruments The Harmonium belongs to the family of Free Reed Instruments. Other instruments belonging to this family include the Accordion and the Concertina.

Popularity of the Harmonium in India Owing to its huge popularity in India, the Harmonium can be seen in use at various occasions. The Harmonium is used both as an accompaniment during vocal performances along with the Tabla as well as a solo instrument.

Harmonium Players in India

As mentioned earlier, Harmonium has enjoyed a place in most Indian homes. It is also quite popular among the Sikhs. However, if we were to talk about some of the most famous personalities who popularised this instrument, we would definitely remember the following names –

  •     Pandit Tulsidas Borkar
  •     Pt. R. K. Bijapure
  •     Arawind Thatte, etc.

Harmonium Performance

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Shehnai, Woodwind Instrument

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Well Known Indian Woodwind Instrument – The Shehnai

The Shehnai is a very well known Indian Woodwind Instrument also known as the (North) Indian Oboe.

It is customary to play the Shehnai in many North Indian weddings since its sound is considered to be very melodious & auspicious.

Usually at the entrance of the wedding venue, Shehnai players can be seen seated, playing their happy tunes and welcoming the guests. In other cases, when live performances are not possible, recorded Shehnai music is played in the background.

What does the Shehnai Look Like?

It is quite simple in look and feel. The tube-like body of the Shehnai is made of wood. It is slim on top and expands towards the rear end into a brass bell.

There are usually about eight (6 to 9) holes on the wooden body. Being a Quadruple Reed WoodWind Musical Instrument, the Shenhai has two sets of double reeds – two upper reeds and two lower reeds.

Origin of the Shehnai

There are several different interpretations about how the Shehnai was invented, the most common being that the Shehnai originated in the Kashmir Valley, in India. Other beliefs state that the Shehnai was named after the King or Shah in who’s court the Shehnai was played and the Barber or Nai who was instrumental in giving it the form it has today. Hence, the instrument was called the “Sheh-Nai”.

Famous Shehnai Artists

Some well known Shehnai Artists who played a major role in popularising the instrument and providing it global acceptance include –

  •     Ustad Bismillah Khan
  •     Ali Ahmed Hussain Khan
  •     Gangadhar Sant
  •     Lokesh Anand

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Alto Saxophone, Woodwind Instruments

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Woodwind Musical Instrument – ALTO SAXOPHONE (ALTO SAX)

The Alto Saxophone is a woodwind musical instrument belonging to the family of Saxophones.

History of Alto Sax

The Saxophone was invented in 1841 by Adolphe Sax, an instrument designer of Belgian descent. Since their invention, the Sax have occupied an important position in classical compositions.

Different Types of Saxophone

The Alto Sax is one of the 6 main sizes of Sax identified and widely accepted during the 1850’s. The others include the Sopranino, Soprano, Tenor, Baritone and Bass.

Look of the Alto Sax

The alto sax falls somewhere in the middle as far as its size is concerned. While it is larger than the Soprano, the alto sax is smaller in size than the tenor sax.

The Alto Saxophone is a powerful and versatile woodwind instrument that has a flared bell and extends largely from the mouth piece to the bell. The most noticeable feature of the alto sax is its upper section which bends beautifully at right angles. Such a bend helps the player to hold and play music comfortably.

If we were to talk about the popularity of the Saxophone, we could conclude that the alto sax and the tenor are the 2 most popular varieties of the saxophone. Classical compositions have been composed especially for these two types of saxophones.

Some Famous Jazz Musicians, Composers and Alto Saxophonists

Some of the earliest Jazz musicians who popularised the Alto Sax were

  • Johnny Hodges
  • Jimmy Dorsey
  • Phil Woods
  • Eric Dolphy, etc.

Famous classical musicians who played tbe alto sax include

  • Larry Teal
  • Donald Sinta
  • Marcel
  • Mule, etc.

Other prominent names in the history of Alto Sax are

  • Alexander Glazunov and
  • Jacques Ibert

If we were to look at its history, we would find that the alto sax has been most popularly used in Jazz and marching band music.

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Harmonica, Woodwind Musical Instrument

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The Harmonica is a free-reed, mouth blown woodwind musical instrument and is most commonly used as a part of Jazz Music, Country Music, Blues and Rock & Roll music, etc.

Other names of the harmonica include the Harp, Mouth Organ, or the Blues Harp.

How does the Harmonica play music?

The Harmonica essentially consists of a row of reeds which are set next to one another. These reeds are attached to a reed plate.

As air is blown into the holes placed in the front panel, the air enters the reed chambers and helps to vibrate the reeds which create sound. Since each reed has a predetermined tone, music is created as a combination of these reeds vibrate.

Perhaps the most important part of the Harmonica is the COMB that holds the air chambers.

Different Varieties of Harmonica

The 5 main varieties of Harmonica include

  •     Chromatic Harmonica
  •     Diatonic Harmonica
  •     Tremolo Harmonica
  •     Orchestral Harmonica
  •     Chord Harmonica

Producing Music with the Harmonica

Over the years, several different techniques of playing the Harmonica have been developed whether in Blues music or country music. These include bending notes, head shaking, vibrato, etc.

Some Famous Harmonica Players

Some well known Harmonica Players and Artists include –

  •     Little Walters
  •     Charlie Mc Coy
  •     Mark Hummel
  •     James Cotton

Harmonica Performance

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Ek Tara – Stringed Instrument

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 Single String Musical Instrument – Folk Music

The Ek Tara is a single string musical instrument. “Ek” means one and “Tara” means String.

Popularity of the Ektara

The Ektara is a very simplistic folk music instrument, most popularly used by Baul Singers in West Bengal. In addition, the Ek tara is also used in countries such as Bangladesh and Egypt, etc.

Other common names of the Ektara are Ektar, Iktar or Gopiyantra.

Look & Feel

There are three main components which make up this simple instrument. These include the spherical head or resonator which may be made of wood, coconut or gourd, a single stretched long string, and its long neck which is made by attaching a split bamboo cane.

The Ektara is played by plucking its solitary string with one finger. There are no frets on this instrument and the tone or pitch may be adjusted by pressing the two halves of the neck together.

The Baul community of singers have made the EkTara synonymous with Baul folk music. It has a very distinctive sound and this form of folk music is easily recognizable.

Different Types of Ek Tara

The different varieties of Ek tara depending on their size includes –

  •     Bass Ek Tara (also called Do Tara)
  •     Tenor Ek Tara
  •     Soprano Ek Tara

Ek Tara Performance

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Sarangi, Indian Stringed Musical Instrument

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The Sarangi is a well known Indian Stringed Instrument, one of the oldest of its kind. It is believed that it is the Sarangi which is able to create sounds comparable with and closest to the human voice!

Earlier, the Sarangi was used as an accompaniment instrument used by accompanying singers. However, over the years, the Sarangi has evolved and created its own special position and is used as a solo instrument.

A form of the fiddle, the Sarangi has a large and solid body, usually around two feet long and around half a foot wide carved out from a single block of wood. Its soundboard is made of goatskin and has quite a wide neck with a large peg box. Like most fiddles, the Sarangi too has a waist which is made from a scalloped front. The leather strip at the waist the bridge which in turns holds and supports about 40 strings.

The Sarangi forms an important part of Hindustani Classical Music and there are many talented Sarangi players who have contributed immensely to the world of music.

Here is a list of some of the famous Sarangi Players of India  –

  •     Gopal Misra
  •     Abdul Latif Khan
  •     Shakur Khan
  •     Pandit Ram Narayan
  •     Sabri Khan
  •     Sultan Khan
  •     Ghulam Sabir Khan
  •     Abdul Karim Khan
  •     Ahmed Khan

To Play the Sarangi:

The 3 thick, tight and short strings are stopped without pressing the fingerboard and not with the finger-tips. Rather, they are played with the nails and the skin above it. The remaining sympathetic strings about 35 may be divided into 4 different “choirs”.

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Ukulele, Stringed Musical Instrument

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The Ukulele is a four-stringed musical instrument.

Similar in look and feel to the Guitar, the Ukulele belongs to the Guitar family and can also be referred to as a four stringed guitar. Just like the guitar, the Ukulele too is fretted.

Origin of the Ukulele

It is believed that the Ukulele originated in the 19th century. It was brought to Hawaii by the Portuguese and was popularised there in the version known today. The Ukulele is based on the Cavaquinho, a musical instrument of Portuguese origin. Over the years, the Ukulele also became popular in Europe.

Different Types of Ukulele

The Ukulele is available in four sizes –

The Soprano
The Concert
The Tenor
The Baritone

Each of these have 4 strings and different number of frets ranging from 14 to 22.

Famous Ukulele Players & Artists

Some well known Ukulele Players –

  •     Ernest Kaai
  •     Andy Cummings
  •     “King” Benny Nawahi
  •     Eddie Kamae
  •     John Kameaaloha Almeida
  •     Uncle Moe Keale, among others.

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Santur, Santoor – Stringed Musical Instrument

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Santur / Santoor

The Santoor, also called the Santur in India was popularised about a half century back by the well known artist Shivkumar Sharma.

It is a stringed instrument – in the shape of a trapeze – box like with a series of strings that pass over 2 or more rows of bridges. These bridges fall on the soundboard. The Santoor in India is more rectangular shaped, thicker and with a number of strings.

Different forms of the Santur have been derived in different parts of the world such as Persia, China, Turkey and Greece etc.

To play the Santur, the player uses a pair of sticks and strikes on the strings.

Here is a list of some of the famous Santur / Santoor players of India  –

* Shiv Kumar Sharma
* Rahul Sharma
* Pashang Kamkar
* Majid Kiani
* Bhajan Sopori
* Manoochehr Sadeghi
* Kourosh Zolani
* Ardavane Kamkar

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